Isaacs Returns to Black

Showing the payoff from its changes in ownership, restructuring and management shifts of the last few years, I.C. Isaacs & Co., which produces Marithé & François Girbaud Jeans, returned to profitability in the first quarter on a 31.3 percent rise in sales.

In a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, the company attributed its improved performance to strong sales of its Girbaud line and to improved cost structures.

For the quarter ended March 31, the firm reported net income of $864,581, or 7 cents a diluted share, compared with a net loss of $641,625, or 6 cents a share, a year earlier. Sales were $21.7 million, up from $16.5 million a year earlier.

The company said sales of women’s products jumped 65 percent to $3.3 million, while sales of men’s wear rose 26.9 percent to $18.4 million.

Designer François Girbaud has significantly restructured his brand’s main licensee since taking a 42.2 percent stake in the company in 2002 through investment vehicles and bringing in Steffan Ahrenberg, a long-time business adviser to the designer, as chairman. The company, which has its executive headquarters in New York, last year named Peter Rizzo as chief executive officer and tapped Sandra Finkelstein for the post of senior vice president of design and merchandising.

The firm also revamped its U.S. product assortment in 2003 to include a broader array of core styles. The company registered net losses of $1.7 million in 2003 and $5 million in 2002. — Scott Malone

Rabbit Redux

Playboy’s signature bunny ears are getting some major play these days.

The magazine’s licensed apparel line will feature a new detail for fall: It’s adopting the brand’s signature bunny ears as back-pocket stitching on its jeans offering.

The apparel line is licensed by Playboy Enterprises Inc. Playboy’s new denim collection of skirts, jackets and jeans, which wholesale from $18 to $39, were picked up by such specialty retailers as National Jean Co. and Up Against The Wall.

Besides the embroidery on the back pockets, the logo is available in rhinestones or is printed or painted on.
— Julee GreenbergCoke Adds Clothes

Coca-Cola is getting fashion-conscious. The company will launch a collection of Coca-Cola branded apparel for the fall season at retail.

Available for women and men, the denim-driven collection includes jeans, miniskirts, leather motorcycle jackets and pants, as well as logo T-shirts, tanks, minidresses and rugby tops. According to Nicole Love, Coca-Cola’s category manager for North America licensing, while the company has experimented with clothing in the past, such as an extensive collection of logo-driven apparel in the Eighties, this is the first time it has launched a full fashion sportswear collection targeted to a high-end specialty base.

“Our mission has always been to connect with a young consumer through various industries, such as in music and technology, and now fashion,” Love said. “The line is very logo-driven for now, but we will take it day by day and through the process add more to it.”

For the launch, Love said designers went through logos used on Coca-Cola products during the course of its 118-year history. The women’s line wholesales from $25 to $75 and targets high-end specialty retailers. Love said it has already been picked up by Scoop Street in New York. She projected $3 million and $5 million in wholesale volume in the first year. — J.G.

VF Taps Murray, Gannaway

VF Corp. on Wednesday closed on its $396 million acquisition of Vans Inc., a maker of skateboarding-oriented footwear and apparel. The Greensboro, N.C.-based apparel giant named Vans vet Steve Murray to the post of president of the brand, succeeding Gary Schoenfeld, who had been president and chief executive officer.

Murray, 43, had served as chief marketing officer and senior vice president. In his new role, he reports to Mike Egeck, president of VF Outdoor’s North American operations. In a statement, VF said the rest of the Vans executive team would remain in place.

Gary Schoenfeld is the son of Walter Schoenfeld, who served as nonexecutive chairman of Vans until its acquisition by VF. The younger Schoenfeld is in talks with VF about possible consulting projects, the company said.VF officials said they believe Vans has the potential to hit the $500 million revenue mark within the next three to five years. Last year, Vans reported $330.2 million in sales.

Vans is primarily a sneaker company, and the deal gives VF its first significant toehold in that business.

VF, which last year posted $5.2 billion in sales, said the new business would add about $200 million to its sales this year and have no major effect on earnings.

In other news, VF has named Michael Gannaway to the new post of vice president of customer management, a role in which he will coordinate the $5.21 billion apparel giant’s business with its largest accounts. He will assume his post on Tuesday.

Gannaway, 53, will report to chairman, president and chief executive officer Mackey McDonald and will be responsible for managing the company’s relationships with its customers that buy from more than one of VF’s five divisions. VF’s five branches, which it calls “coalitions,” are jeanswear, intimate apparel, imagewear, outdoors and sportswear.

Most recently, Gannaway served as ceo of the former home-fashions maker Pillowtex, where he oversaw the sale of the bankrupt mill’s assets. Prior to that, he spent almost a decade at Sara Lee Branded Apparel, where he was in charge of cross-divisional selling. Earlier in his career, he worked at Revlon, The Estée Lauder Cos. and the former Dayton-Hudson Corp., now Target Corp.

John Sturgis, vice president for VF’s Wal-Mart account team, will report to Gannaway. Sturgis is based in Bentonville, Ark., near Wal-Mart’s headquarters. — S.M.

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